Contest. That word has a charm of its own. Ever since the days of the cavemen right till today’s Olympics, the brave and the meek have gone up against each other. A contest has a simple pull – all of us want to know and show if we are the best. Even on the comparatively egalitarian World Wide Web, it is a barometer for a self-pat on the back. We have online photography contests of all kinds; from the recent best body and fitness contests to regular programming contests. Google contests are used by a big company as part of their promotion strategy. Graphic lovers have their Photoshop contests.
Photographers aren’t in any way left out. In fact, they seem to be the most proactive lot when it comes to contests. Bakari showed us some awesome free photography contests. So, let’s launch into some more popular photo contests and pit ourselves against the best of the rest.
Calendar Date: Always Open
The National Geographic photo contest can either make you go “wow”, or make you feel inferior if you are starting out with your DSLR. National Geographic is one of the more preeminent places to take your photos to. If any of your photos get selected, then it is the best badge to say that you have finally arrived. Your Shot is the magazine’s photo community which invites regular submissions from photographers of all hues. Whether a hobbyist or a pro, you can participate fearlessly. National Geographic editors review each submission carefully and the best 12 get picked in the popular Daily Dozen category.
The best thing is that the editors also offer professional tips which are an invaluable learning experience. The publication of photos in the magazine or the website is reward enough for any photography enthusiast. The guidelines are explained here in more detail.
Calendar Date: Annual (open till November 29, 2013)
Another renowned name, but one you may not immediately associate with photography. But you will be surprised to know that the Smithsonian magazine’s photography contest has its own place. Standards are of course, very high. You can enter any of the five categories — the American Experience, the Natural World, People, Travel and Altered Images – to win cash prizes. The grand prize winner gets $2500. Read the complete FAQs here.
Calendar Date: September (expected)
It’s printed in large letters — The world’s largest photo contest. It is also certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest photo contest in the world. Not really surprising because it was organized by the Wikipedia community. The contest started off in 2010 in The Netherlands. By 2012, it was held across 35 countries and garnered 350,000 photo submissions. The international photo contest is meant to showcase the cultural heritage through monuments of each participating country.
Though the contest for this year is yet to be announced, you can still see the latest uploads coming into the site. The photos are all freely licensed under Wikimedia Commons.
Calendar Date: Weekly
Pixoto is a photography contest of a different kind, and one which makes it the easiest to participate. The photo service uses an algorithm called ImageDuel to submit each photo to a comparison and voting process. The photo with the best positive feedback (an image score) wins. There are dozens of categories and each top photo can win $150 every week. Others among the top 20% can get badges to display alongside their profiles and photos on the site.
Calendar Date: Always open
ViewBug is a photography community with a few contests of its own. There are premium (paid) and free contests to go along with the free and premium plans the site has for you to join. The free membership allows you to participate in the free contests. There were about 16 contests going on at the time of writing this article. Awards include photography kits, pro-memberships, and exposure. Some of the categories are unique – from photographing subjects floating on water to capturing scenes by looking up.
Calendar Date: Annual (to be announced for 2013)
PDN’s World in Focus is a travel photography contest which is awarded separately to amateurs and professionals. There is an entry fee for this contest – amateurs ($22) and professionals ($45). The contest is open internationally. The submission date for this year’s announcements has passed, but it could be worthwhile to wait and prepare for next year. The contest closed in October last year, and the winners photos were published in March 2013. Winning entries are featured on the website and in the magazine.
Calendar Date: Annual (to be announced for 2013)
The No Man’s Art Slum Photography Contest is an annual photography contest held exclusively for kids in an underprivileged neighborhood in the world. The winning photo is exhibited in the art gallery of the organization. Children are taught how to use a camera in a workshop and then given a free rein to express themselves and their lives with photos. The site says that Plans for 2013 are to give the children in the slums of Capetown the opportunity to experiment with photography. Though this is not a usual photography contest, I decided to mention this for its novelty, and also to show how photography can be used for the charitable good. You can also sponsor a participant with your contribution.
Calendar Date: Annual (February)
This is the definitive site for photo journalists to come and win an award for their profession. The World Press Photo Awards are the world’s largest and most celebrated annual press photography contest. The non-profit organization holds the contest annually. The 2013 awards were announced in February. Photos are submitted across a wide range of categories that also include arts and entertainment, portraits and nature. The awards have been held for 55 years and are meant to showcase the often dangerous, often invaluable work of photo journalists.
The Best Way to Be In The Know: Photo Contest Directories
The best way to be completely aware of the next photo contest around the turn of the calendar is through photo contest tracking websites. Subscribe to their RSS feeds or Twitter updates. But do keep them bookmarked. Here are three of the more comprehensive ones I found.
You have to enter to win. That’s the slight trouble you have to take with contests. I have tried to mix this article up with some high-brow contests, and a couple which you can enter more easily if you are an amateur photographer. But there are photography contests all around us, some local, some national, and international like the ones above.
Photography contests aren’t about winning prizes alone. They are also about being part of the wider photography community and taking our photography learning to a new level. Have you taken your best snaps and put them to the test on a photo contest? Tell us about the best photo contests out there; because there are so many.
Image Credit: Shutterstock